20 February, 2009

Truly Terrifying...

Ever since I was a girl, I have been fascinated by the truly terrifying. The oldest of four children, I was the evil baby sitter who stayed up late after the kids went to bed munching on popcorn and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan, so by the time I was twelve I had read some of his most hair-raising work and still recall going to bed and pulling the blankets tight up around my neck after reading Salem's Lot.

I have often blogged about my own endeavors into horror writing. During NaNoWriMo I worked quite a bit on a zombie novel and the novel I am trying to complete right now is a ghost story. This afternoon I was working on a writing prompt that came out like some twisted version of Revelations that ended badly for humanity, and it got me to thinking about what types of things other people might find horrific and terrifying. What scares me might not scare you, and visa versa.

Writers like John Saul often incorporate the supernatural and demonic into their work, relying on the Christian fear of God to frighten their readers, while others use monsters and apocalyptic situations. More and more often these days, it seems as if horror has employed a "nothing's shocking" approach, taking nightmares right out of every day life to give their readers a scare. Serial killers and stalkers are the boogeymen of the new millenium, and it would seem that the more outlandish their murder tactics, the more appealing their stories are to most readers.

I personally have a hard time getting into that type of horror and prefer a more paranormal threat. There's something safe (and yet equally mortifying) about the monster under the bed when he's a zombie or a vampire, something we categorize as unrealistic, but it seems that the lack of paranormal proof has pushed the limits of horror into the ghastly and realistic.

Psychological thrillers are another big seller these days. Stories that test the bounds of what is real and suggest that the most horrific of all horrors is the reality we create for ourselves. For example, Stephen King's short story, "1408," which tests the bounds the between the paranormal and the human mind, have the capacity to be truly thrilling because one has to ask, "Is this real or is it a product of the imagination?"

So whether you write horror, read horror or occasionally enjoy a horror movie, what brand of horror scares you the most and why? Has this changed in your lifetime? It has for me. When I was younger I was all about the slasher films. While I definitely appreciated a good ghost story or zombie film, the idea of a serial murder hacking up teens was my idea of a good scare. As a mother to a teen those types of movies now just depress me more than anything.


Nicole Ireland said...

I have to agree with you. I much prefer paranormal/supernatural horror stories. The murder ones are just too much for me. They're too gorey. I'd rather watch a movie about ghost haunting someone rather than any of the Saw movies.

You know the movie that made me pull up my covers in fright? You're gonna laugh. Leprechaun! Seriously! Warrick Davis scared the you know what right out of me. For months, I was convinced he was coming after me.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I tend to find slashers gruesome (in a 'look away now' sense) but not actually scary. I prefer to be scared in a more subtle way - The Green Mile is one of my favourite scary films, but I'm not sure if it's really 'horror' in the traditional sense.

Jenny Beans said...

Nicole, I never watched the Leprechaun movies in full, but my brother did and he would tease us. Freddie Krueger was ultimately terrifying for me personally because I've always been deeply fascinated with dreams. The idea of some evil murdering razor-fingered guy creeping around in people's dreams to kill them... yeah, I think I just had a waking nightmare.

Rachel, I love the Green Mile. It's such a beautiful and twisted story, and I think that the character portrayed by Sam Rockwell is perhaps one of the most terrifying types of characters in the world for me.

Susan said...

Timely post, as my son is watching SawIV right now. Definitely NOT my cup of tea. I really enjoyed ''The Green Mile'', as it seemed to be a "thinking person's" horror flick.

Morgan Mandel said...

I like any horror story or movie that's done well. If they're over the edge, then I enjoy them also, because they're good for a laugh.

Morgan Mandel

Sheri said...

I also love paranormal stories. I am not really into the hack-and-slash movies or books at all. I refuse to even watch any of the Saw movies.

My Aunt used to make me watch Chucky with the Chucky doll in the room with me. Talk about a sick sense of humor! She also made me watch scary clown movies in her house that had tons of clown things in it (she collected clown items). Needless to say, I hate clowns and don't like Chucky. lol

Laurie said...

I absolutely second what Susan said about ''The Green Mile.'' While I did like the concept of the Nightmare movies - they didn't scare me nearly as much as some of the psychological thrillers.

I remember being terrified when I saw ''The Twilight Zone'' movie for the first time - that thing on the wing of the plane had me nearly under my seat.

The movie that scared me (and still scares me) the most, though, was ''The Exorcist.'' I was eight years old, and my babysitter let me watch it. I hate her to this day. Eight years old, full of all kinds of Catholic guilt (started early) - AND we had squirrels in our attic that year. I was completely convinced an evil devil Tiki doll was up there, and that at any moment I'd start levitating and my head would spin round. To this day, I still have dreams about that movie - if there is even a photo of Linda B in full freaky getup in a magazine I lose it.

So that's what scares me - pure evil.

Having said that, we did visit ''The Exorcist'' steps in Georgetown a few years ago. I stood across the street ;-) BOO!

AravisGirl said...

I always did such a good job scaring myself with my won imagination that I never have read any horror stuff.